Looking Back: Our Favorite Albums of 2007 #2

#2 :: Menomena - Friend and Foe (Barsuk)
When Menomena burst out of Portland and into popular consciousness with 2004’s illuminating I Am the Fun Blame Monster, two things became immediately clear: this band has a great sense of humor (the title is an anagram for “Menomena’s first album”), and this band makes music that doesn’t sound like anything else. What became clear much later was that this band is comprised entirely of nice guys. I had a chance to meet Brent Knopf at SXSW, and Danny Seim seemingly goes out of his way to hook up cokemachineglow, whether it be for interviews or cover songs. When I found out that Friend and Foe was nominated for a Grammy for best packaging you bet I was excited. As the crowds get bigger (I saw them in 2004 with about 20 people in Pittsburgh art gallery and in 2007 at a sold-out showcase in Austin) they seem to stay the same. But the music, that music, it too keeps growing.

What is it about the Menomena sound? It’s the saxophones, or it’s the drums, or it’s the keys, or the sheer impossibility that only three guys are making so much sound. The thing about “the Menomena sound” is that it shifts around on you, dancing like Ali in the ring: a beautiful and violent performance. Take second track, “The Pelican,” which starts with an end-of-the-world piano line and vocals. It’s a deliberately stark arrangement that highlights the menace of the song: “take it from the hook / while it’s still kicking.” Then, at 56 seconds in, all hell breaks loose. A mean, bent guitar note, and furious drumming kick into the next section, but don’t get comfortable. Just a minute later the song strips all the way down to just guitar, a heavenly chorus of sorts kicks in, and the whole mess just repeats itself. This is a three and half minute song.

Like any album that deserves “best of year” accolades, there are no weak tracks here, though some shine brighter than others. “Wet and Rusting” was the single released way back in 2006, and still kicks ass; “Weird” relies on a seriously fuzzed out bass synth line that tenuously holds the album’s first half to it’s equally stellar second. “Rotten Hell” contains the album’s most sublime moment, a vocal breakdown that escalates into an anthem about street fighting and perseverance. Album opener “Muscle ‘N Flo,” addresses some of the band’s newfound fame, and is available for your listening pleasure below. But here is all you need to know: “I’m not young / but I’m not through.” I sure hope not, dudes. (Craig)

Download: Menomena - Muscle ‘n Flo

Buy it here.
Barsuk Records

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